In most sports losing sucks. It’s a dreadful experience for a fan. But it is never worse, never more disheartening than in baseball. In football, even when you’re the 2008 Detroit Lions and your team loses all of its games, that event only happens once a week. In hockey or basketball, the incident only occurs a few times a week. In baseball, the agony of defeat happens “every… damn… day.” It’s like being stuck next to someone’s never-ending car siren. All you want to do is bust through their window and turn it off, make it end. But, you can’t, it’s out of your control; all you can do is wait until someone turns it off.
But, losing doesn’t have to be all bad — especially when you know you’re prone to defeat, when you know your team is going to suck. This is what it’s come to for the Brewers. We know they’re going to suck. They know and we know that they’re going to suck. In fact, we know that they know that we know that they’re going to suck. And in some ways, there’s a quiet contentment in that fact. Sure, watching the L’s pile up won’t be fun, but there are other ways of enjoying the season — such as a great pitching performance or a beautiful diving catch. Maybe it’ll be a majestic home run or a splendid game.
You might find joy in prospects. In the ever improving farm system. Or a cornerstone player advancing in his development.
Perhaps that will be Jimmy Nelson, who this past year made a few adjustments to his pitching arsenal. The main one being, introducing a knucle-curveball for the first time, which he used at a 21.11 percent clip in 2015. But, as Ryan Romano has noted, his slider also took a significant jump last season — mainly improving the horizontal movement of the pitch, which has yielded better results. In fact, according to FanGraphs PITCHfx pitch values, Nelson’s slider went from being below average at -2.3 wSL in 2014 to being above average at 8.9 wSL in 2015. On top of that, these adjustments have allowed Nelson to get batters to swing at more pitches outside the strike zone, coupled with their whiffing on more pitches outside the strike zone. These adjustments are important for young pitchers and will allow them to garner more success in the future.
Nelson is still relatively young at 26, and his improvements as a pitcher will help in a couple of ways. He will either become one of the franchise’s building blocks or Nelson will end up being a valuable trade chip. In all probability, trading Nelson might make a ton of sense, considering his age, but that is a topic for another time and another day.
In any case, maybe it won’t be Nelson, maybe it’ll be Domingo Santana or Taylor Jungmann who will take the next step. The key for Brewers fans will be finding joy in these moments, not caring about the win-loss record. The record will now become background noise, just like an annoying announcer who you’ve decided to tune out. The same attitude needs to be taken with the win-loss record. It’s time to tune it out. At this point it’s just noise. It’s irrelevant. It’s meaningless because it is no longer the goal.
The goal now is finding talent and finding joy in discovering that talent. And, if the new Ivy League GM is anything like his former boss, boy oh boy are they going to find talent. Pitching talent, hitting talent, coaching talent, and whatever else this new front office can think of.
But, the biggest key, the essential fundamental factor in finding joy in the following season is knowing the Brewers have a plan coupled with the low expectations. Being angry from a season is in so many ways dependent on the expectations of the season. If you’re a Pirates fan, the only way to satiate the prospect of success will be to make it past the wild card. Losing in another wild card game or not making the playoffs will end up being a disappointment. If you’re a Dodgers or Yankees fan, well, you pretty much already know what the goal is every season and not meeting that goal will probably end up with a lot of people being disappointed.
It’s the same principle with the Brewers season. The expectations are low, and therefore, one should find joy in the finer and smaller elements of the game. In many ways, these upcoming seasons might bring some fans closer to the game.